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TUC wants to see gig economy ‘poverty pay’ jobs tackled

Earnings of almost half of the four million over-25-year-olds classed as self-employed fell below the minimum wage

A recent report highlights the continued concerns surrounding employment within the gig economy, with numerous major company’s practices again being questioned. Despite government pledges to improve the situation, many struggling families who rely on self-employed income are finding themselves worse off.

The TUC found that the earnings of almost half of the four million over-25-year-olds classed as self-employed fell below the minimum wage. The past decade has seen a marked increase in the self-employed workforce, with the Office for National Statistics revealing the total stands at 4.8 million.

The government has issued figures showing a 2.5 million increase in jobs since 2010 and a 43-year-low unemployment rate of 40 per cent; however, the self-employed and zero-hours contract workers’ statistics are showing a steady decrease in income – well below the average of employed staff.

Despite her pledge, Prime Minister Theresa May has not implemented any changes; therefore, a crackdown on zero-hours contracts and equal pay rights for agency workers have been called for.

Growth in the self-employed sector has in part been created by an increase in sham employers. Such employers benefit from operating in an ungoverned way, which includes a reduction in tax liabilities, a lack of a minimum wage standard, and little responsibility taken for workers’ rights. This affects a huge number of people up and down the country, with at least 3.7 million – including the self-employed and agency workers – currently being taken advantage of.

Almost one million UK workers do not have any job security or guaranteed hours. This is a marked increase since the start of the millennium, when this figure stood at around 200,000. This shows a clear increase in the issues raised, with concerns that work in Britain has become steadily more precarious.

Although it has been agreed in the past year that workers should have the right to request fixed-hour contracts from employers, the TUC says that the government should have done more.

Recent months have seen some reduction in the number of zero-hours contracts, which can be partially attributed to the number of public scandals and the increase in the full-time employment level; however, there are still a huge number of people left in real financial difficulty.

Last year, the government commissioned a report into our modern employment practices. When published, the report called for greater benefits and protection for the workers in this sector. Despite promises and existing reports highlighting the many shortfalls, the TUC says that the government has failed to take any real action to back up its assurances.

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